Building-Integrated Renewable Energy Systems
Installation of a renewable energy system is nowadays often thought of as a positive innovation for an establishment. Aside from the hope of being able to eventually even out the investment cost, many entrepreneurs can also have the benefit of being able to present the establishment as a building that does not contribute (or at least just minimally) to environmental harm.
But instead of just installing the energy system onto the already completed building, the idea of actually integrating the system to design of the building is already gaining considerable popularity as of late. These building-integrated renewable energy systems hold the potential to have more economic value, because they are practically embedded into the internal system of the building itself.
The definition of a building integrated renewable energy system, though already quite self-explanatory, can actually be wide and expansive. This is because building integration could take all sorts of different meanings. The most basic meaning of course is the inclusion of the components (e.g. turbines and panels) into the building’s aesthetic and structural design. This means that a building integrated renewable energy system would most likely replace some of the components that would be used in the construction. Alternatively, integration could also mean design renovation, which would incorporate a few elements of a regular renewable energy system (though it would still be “melded” with other systems within the building) because it was practically added or appended after the design for the building was already completed.
The renewable energy system integrated in the building would also have to be supported by a wide variety of smart sensors and monitoring systems. This might significantly increase the investment capital needed for the establishment, but according to IBM, “smart” green buildings could actually reduce energy consumption by up to 50%. The economic prospect of being able to save energy is, after all, the most important advantage of a renewable energy system. If it can be strategically integrated, then larger economic returns can be possible.
The impetus for the establishment of building integrated renewable systems is very understandable, but as you may have noticed, not all companies can gladly embrace the green concept. There are still many hurdles that prevent the green energy integration idea from truly being accepted as the ultimate solution.
In the field of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) for example, one of the most challenging issues is the development of solar panels that would have the same grade and structural value as the materials that it would replace. Building codes and standards could also significantly slow down design and development, as ordinary green energy system components are not really built with the same construction quality as other building materials.
Then again, just like any other renewable energy project, there is always hope, and there are always other projects that can provide the inspiration and example to convince us that it is economically feasible. The most commonly cited example of a successful building integrated renewable energy system is the CIS Tower in Manchester, England (see feature image). Though technically a renovation-integration project, its former mosaic tiles are now replaced with building-integrated PV cells. It generates roughly 180,000 kilowatt-hours per year, and is currently providing extra energy for the UK National Grid. Other projects are thankfully already on the way, and we hope that other businesspeople and entrepreneurs would eventually become inspired by this green building solution.
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